Hubble trouble: Deep space telescope in ‘safe mode’ after mechanical fail

11 October, 2018, 09:30 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Hubble space telescope fails and goes into'safe mode

The Hubble Space Telescope has shut down and gone into protective "safe mode" after one of the gyroscopes which keep it in place failed on Sunday, team members said.

The Hubble Space Telescope had to be placed into safe mode after it encountered a major issue on Friday, Oct. 5.

The telescope went into safe mode because of a failure in one of the instrument's gyroscopes, which steer Hubble and ensure it can get a steady view of space.

"Safe mode puts the telescope into a stable configuration until ground control can correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation", it said.

Till then science operations with Hubble have been suspended.

It's been used to date the galaxy and study black holes but now NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is taking a break from activities due to a mechanical fault.

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The remaining three are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives. Thus, at this time, Hubble has two functional gyroscopes. "At any given time, Hubble needs three of its six gyroscopes operating to ensure optimal efficiency", NASA says.

More than 30 astronauts have flown to Hubble to deploy, upgrade and fix the observatory with the support of a human spaceflight and space shuttle staff. Thousands of astronomers from dozens of countries have used Hubble and analyzed its data to produce more than 15,000 peer reviewed papers to date.

According to BBC News, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is Hubble's designated successor, but it has experienced a series of delays and will not launch until 2021, at the earliest.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has had trouble with its gyroscopes before.

The gyro that failed is one of three in service keeping the telescope aimed and steady, NASA said, and it had been "exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year" so "its failure was not unexpected". But Hubble will still be able to do some useful science, and dropping down to one gyro instead of two effectively doubles its lifespan. This is one reason why NASA sought to install three enhanced gyros on the telescope in 2009. Two of Hubble's other gyros of the same type have already failed. With only one gyro Hubble is restricted in what parts of the sky it can look, because it can only rotate in one direction at a time. And the Kepler space telescope, which has discovered about 70 percent of the confirmed 3,800 exoplanets to date, is running so low on fuel that its handlers recently shut it off, to make sure it has enough propellant left to orient itself toward Earth and beam its latest data haul back to Earth next week.

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